I was the only Asian in the 4×4 jeepney. An Israeli couple traveling with their little girl Luna was an endearing sight. The morning air was cool. Everyone donned their cardigan or jacket. I wrapped the pink scarf around my shoulders; my wet hair tickled my arms. We were on our way to BOH Tea Plantation.
Cameron Highlands draws a lot of travelers, mostly westerners. The place has Starbucks already, and I would not be surprised if in the coming years, McDonalds would stand proud and mighty somewhere. But knowing us, Filipinos—the most western-culture-loving Asians, most of us would love seeing Starbucks and McDonalds everywhere. But I do not. I prefer local markets, I mean real local markets—not the one put up for travelers’ consumption. But Cameron Highlands does not have that. I do not really mind. The main reason I was there was to see the wowing rolling hills of centuries-old tea plantation.
Aside from the tea plantation, most activities are pretty much like Baguio’s or Bohol’s. So here are the things I did in CH.
Ironically, Cameron Highlands made me enter a strawberry farm and a butterfly farm respectively. Of course, the strawberry field was not the Beatles’ kind; it was not forever. It was a small enclosure meant for passing tourists. The real farm behind us was locked up and inaccessible. The owners must have predicted that some sneaky tourists would pick some fruits and munch them right there and then. To pick a fruit or two for free was fine. So, I found it rather amusing and odd that I had my first strawberry-picking experience not in Baguio but in Malaysia. And yes, I could not help but pick a fruit or two and munch.
It was the butterfly farm that I regretted entering. Because I knew that those butterflies were not inherent in the place. Locals hunted them, sold them to the gardens, and the unfortunate winged creatures were trapped to their death. The garden was beautiful—I always find flowers as a source of happiness. But guilt nagged me: the butterflies’ existence was meant for business, was meant for tourists who are willing to pay 5RM to have a short interaction with them.
Perhaps it was worth it for others. But for me, butterflies flying in their natural habitat are way more beautiful.
Cameron Highlands is primarily known for its trekking trails. There are at least ten established ones that lead to small waterfalls, little villages, and foggy mountainscape. It was a foggy, cold, and drizzling July, an unlikely weather for a relaxing trek.
To lessen the expenses, I joined a trekking tour, and it was unsurprising to be the only Asian traveler in a group of twenty. It was supposedly a trekking tour, but we spent most of the time in the jeepney. The highlight of the short trek was seeing the pitcher plants randomly adorning the mossy forest.
There is a recurring theme in the Malaysia leg of my trip. Despite the enjoyable walk around Kuala Lumpur, I found the countryside like Taiping and Cameron Highlands more appealing and soothing.
READ: What Did I Pack for my Five-Week Trip? No checked-in luggage!
I went to Cameron Highlands to see the hectares-wide tea plantations: something that we do not have in the Philippines. The rolling hills of short tea trees were. Spectacular? Amazing? Wonderful? I do not know the right adjective. But to be there, to be part of the landscape that has been maintained, that has been the source of livelihood to many locals is humbling and wowing.
A week-long solo trip around Malaysia was an eventful initiation of adventuring outside our archipelagic country. I did not regret doing it alone. More than knowing a foreign place, it was the self that I learned to know more: the self who is ever gutsy, reckless, the self who is not scared of getting lost.
219.8RM – Php 2 490 : USD53
|Day 5||Day 6|
|Taiping-Ipoh Bus – 11.50||Cameron-KL Bus Ticket – 38.5|
|Ipoh-Cameron Highlands – 35||Butterfly Farm Entrance Fee – 5|
|Orchid Lodge (Dorm bed for 2 nights) – 51.00||Lunch – 6|
|Dinner – 5||Grocery – 1.8|
|Tour – 40||Noodles + egg – 4|
|Beer – 15||Coffee – 7.5|
Looking at my diaried expenses (oh, yes, all expenses are diaried!), I had a can of beer at a bar behind the rows of coffee shops, restaurant, and tour operators. It was a cool place. Its central attraction was the huge bonfire, where travelers circled and chatted about their travels and plans.
I also noticed that my coffee is more expensive than my dinner of noodles and eggs. What I love about Orchid’s Lodge is its kitchen! You are allowed to cook your own food. So I cooked my dinner once, but I mostly dined at the little food market across from the rows of restaurants. It was an initiation on Indian, Malay, and Chinese food.
When a place is popular, chances are there are cheap accommodations everywhere. Cameron Highlands has a good number of affordable dorm accommodations for budget travelers. I traveled solo, so a dorm was not as bad as I thought.
CH Travellers Inn | Camellia 4, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
CH Travellers Inn is a newly opened hostel in Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Pahang, Malaysia. It has clean, spacious, comfortable and well-furnished rooms decorated with lime-green walls, fragrant flowerpots, and artwork and photographs of the Cameron Highlands. Located just next to Maybank in Tanah Rata town. Look at the rates here.
Orchid Lodge |Camellia 4, Tanah Rata, Pahang, Cameron Highlands
Orchid Lodge is located within easy walking distance to Tanah Rata bus station, shops and restaurants. Eawasian, the owner, has a helpful and caring nature that sets his place apart from others in Tanah Rata. He’ll happily give you options for visiting tea plantations, strawberry farms and the many fabulous jungle walks (suitable for all abilities.) He’ll advise how you can do it for free where possible or inform you of the best tour from the many agencies in Tanah Rata. I stayed here for two nights.
Cameronian Inn | No 16, Jalan Mentigi, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
Cameronian Inn is another cheap accommodation in Tanah Rata, the place where the bus station is located. Rooms are clean, and you can meet a lot of backpackers. Look at the rates here.
Strawberry Park Resort | Tanah Rata,, Brinchang, Cameron Highlands
This quaint colonial-styled hotel, situated upon a seven-acre plateau, is within proximity of the train station. Guests will enjoy a location only four kilometers from the airport, and close to a myriad of amazing scenic, cultural, and tourist attractions. The hotel boasts a comprehensive selection of hotel rooms, perfectly suited to fit within the constrains of any budget. The on-site Tudor Grill serves a remarkably elaborate compilation of dishes, from international to local fusion. The Strawberry Court Thai Restaurant serves a distinctive collage of spicy foods in an ornate atmosphere. Strawberry Park Resort is ideal for guests who want comfortable furnishings, interesting surroundings, and a unique selection of on-site facilities. Look at the rates here.
Heritage Hotel Cameron Highlands | Jalan Gereja, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
Heritage Hotel Cameron Highlands is ideally located in Tanah Rata. This boutique hotel is situated on a hill surrounded by elegantly designed gardens in the old English countryside style. The hotel itself is also well-decorated in a Tudor style. Within lush tropical rainforests, guests can feel relaxed and rejuvenated away from the chaotic environment of the city. The hotel also provides traditional and modern comforts with great service from the hotel’s friendly staff. The 238 rooms were designed with guests’ comfort in mind. Look at the rates here
Cameron Highlands Resort | Tanah Rata, Pahang, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands
Rated as one of the best tea plantation hotels in the world, Cameron Highlands Resort celebrates the region’s colonial heritage. Adjacent to a golf course and surrounded by tea plantations and strawberries, this boutique property that embodies the charm, adventure, and gentility of the old world colonial lifestyle. In addition to the luxurious amenities, the hotel includes scrumptious dining venues with the option of intimate private dining. A must-try is the unique Spa Village with signature treatments based on traditional tea rituals. The hotel’s Grand Ballroom and seven other function rooms provide for intimate and exclusive social and corporate gatherings in an elegant setting. With its magical hilltop location and cool refreshing climate, the boutique Cameron Highlands Resort is the picture-perfect setting for the sophisticated traveler looking to escape the routine and experience a sense of intimate country-style living with attentive, yet unobtrusive, service. Look at the rates here.
Some parts of this article appeared on my column Down South on interaksyon.com on February 14, 2016
How about you? What do you prefer? City? Countryside? Or a mix of both?